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Speed-the-Plow

David Mamet
Theatre Royal Bath Productions
Playhouse Theatre

Lindsay Lohan (Karen), Richard Schiff (Bobby Gould) Credit: Simon Annand
Nigel Lindsay (Charlie Fox), Richard Schiff (Bobby Gould) Credit: Simon Annand
Lindsay Lohan (Karen) Credit: Simon Annand

The programme notes tell us that Lindsay Lohan, around whom all of the pre-show hype revolved, has had a varied career for one so young.

In addition to being “an accomplished” actress, the CV includes “a platinum-selling recording artist, fashion designer and highly sought-after model” but literally no previous stage work and unfortunately, while the actress is competent, it shows.

Although a second Lindsay, director Posner, is a Mamet specialist, even he cannot weave the necessary magic on this occasion.

Regardless of the billings, the leading roles go to our own Nigel Lindsay and another visitor from across the pond, Richard Schiff (did the world contain no more Lindsays?).

The West Wing's Schiff plays newly promoted movie executive Bobby Gould, a surprisingly weak and at times inaudible character at the performance under review.

Lindsay is Charlie Fox, a loud-mouthed man who has lived in Gould's shadow throughout their careers on the Hollywood rollercoaster. However, thanks to hard work and a big dose of good luck, his moment has come.

A dream script from a big hitter has fallen into Charlie’s lap and all that he needs is a friend to present it to the studio and make his reputation.

Fox knows that nothing can stop him now and is bristling with pride and excitement until held up by a piece of bad timing and then serendipity.

After the big meeting is postponed overnight, Gould asks Miss Lohan's Karen, a nervous temp, to read a novel as a means of seducing her.

When the under-dressed young woman subsequently treks over to his stylish apartment, her agenda and his could hardly be further apart.

While Karen does her damnedest to persuade the hard-nosed movie mogul that an impenetrable book will make the perfect movie, his sole interest is to win a bet with Charlie and get her into bed.

The outcome of their encounter becomes apparent in the final act of an evening that only less than 100 minutes including a lengthy interval.

Inexplicably, a night of sex has turned Gould’s brain to mush, leaving him on the brink of jeopardising his own career, while wrecking Fox’s life at the same time.

This is a typical Mamet situation but the conclusion is more clear-cut than can sometimes be the case in his plays.

Somehow, none of the performers appears to inhabit their roles as fully as one would expect, especially from the two with greater experience. As such, we are never drawn into their characters’ seedy but highly paid world as should the case with this satire on an industry that David Mamet knows so well.

In addition, the staccato rhythm that is required to bring out the best of the humour and conflict in any play by this writer is replaced by a slower tempo that does the piece no favours.

It is often a mistake to revive a play only a few years after a really successful production. Having seen Kevin Spacey and Jeff Goldblum respectively playing Charlie and Bobby (alongside Laura Michelle Kelly) to perfection at the Old Vic in Matthew Warchus’s much funnier and also infinitely more credible production, this was always going to be a hard sell. Regrettably, it is unlikely to gain plaudits or live in the memory for any length of time.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher